a large green generator box.

Protecting Union Station rail corridor from blackout

It’s not just about the energy you have now, but what’s needed during an emergency.

Jul 6, 2020

It’s easy to see the power behind a rail line.

The thunder of a GO or UP Express train passing a platform, and rumble of a GO bus moving down the highway, is enough to respect the energy required to move 300,000 people daily across Ontario routes.

But there’s more power at play – and safeguarding a major network hub from a potential blackout takes planning and a monster energy reserve.

a large green generator box.

A look at the generators, with the CN Tower in the background. (Metrolinx photo)

This month, the installation of a state-of-the-art, two megawatt emergency generator in the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC) will be complete. Once operational, the generator will have the capability to take a high power surge load – such as during a blackout – and help keep trains moving.

Let’s break this down – a single megawatt is one-million watts. So two megawatts would be enough to keep your home – and about 1,999 of your neighbours – running.

That’s strength.

Speaking of heft, back in late December, the generator was lifted into place by a crane positioned in the Union Station Rail Corridor. This involved a massive 500-tonne crane lifting the 50-tonne generator from staging ground on the Yonge Street off-ramp.

the crane beside the rail tracks.

Against the backdrop of the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC), a crane works on bringing in a piece of the generators, earlier this year. (Metrolinx photo)

Anastassia Ferdman, Metrolinx project manager for the USRC, said the weekend daytime crane lift took less than 12 hours and was done in a window that prevented any impact to GO operations.

The generator will provide back-up power to Metrolinx systems such as platform lighting, departure PINs boards, closed circuit televisions in concourses, public announcement (PA) systems, and upcoming Union Station Enhancement Project (which will include two new wide platforms with canopies, two new tracks, and a new south concourse), and the uninterruptable power source (UPS).

a large engine.

A look inside the big engine unit. (Metrolinx photo)

For those who love to dabble in the specifics of such things …

The uninterruptible power (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or main power fails.

A UPS differs from an auxiliary, or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries, supercapacitors or flywheels.

The on-battery run-time of most uninterruptible power sources is relatively short (only a few minutes) but sufficient to start a standby power source or properly shut down the protected equipment. It is a type of continual power system.

“As we add trains and increase service to our network, and as more and more people use the GO system, it becomes increasingly important to be prepared in the event of a possible power outage,” explained Abhilash Dudha, Metrolinx project coordinator for the USRC.

Located east of the train shed, the Genset enclosure is supported by a nearby substation and eight conduit running within the Union Station Rail Corridor to connect the generator and the new substation.

electrical boxes inside a large room.

A rare look inside a substation. (Metrolinx photo)

Once operational, the new generator will be inspected for fuel level, faults, and performance by Metrolinx staff to monitor the day-to-day health of the generator.

The installation of the emergency generator is just one of 11 projects – either in design or construction – preparing the Union Station Rail Corridor for GO Expansion service levels.

It’s nice to have power in reserve.

Now that we have your attention, click here to see another of our GO Expansion stories.

Editor’s Note – this story was updated to better reflect the capabilities of the generator highlighted in this piece.

by Stacey Kenny Metrolinx corporate communications manager